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What future now for the F-35?

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posted on Jan, 7 2006 @ 07:47 AM
Most of what I have written here I have posted elsewhere so please forgive me saying it again, only that reply seems to have got lost in the thread ans wasn't strictly on topic there anyway.

The F-35 certainly has its critics on here and also seems to be lurching from one crisis to another in the real world with questions over its potential engines, its weight and real time capabilies, just which versions will actually get produced and in what numbers, as well as who for.

The original technological goal, which the UK joined the programme for, of producing the worlds first fighter to encompass stealth, supersonics and VTOL in a single airframe - 'the ultimate perfect fighter' - now seems almost irrelevant in the light of all this in-fighting and the promise of great things from much less complicated UCAV designs. As well as this several nations are really question the 'bang for buck' factor and looking at whether they really need a fighter this complex and expensive.

The situation here in the UK, for instance, is completely up in the air, if you forgive the pun. The RN and RAF both apparently insist that the desperately want, and will get, the F-35B variant and will operate it from the new carriers that are soon to get under construction.

There are signs however that all is not well here, mention of the Sea Typhoon has resurfaced when this project officially died several years ago, furthermore the RN has 'leaked' that it is quite impressed by the increased performance that the USN 'C' model will have by comparison with the STOVL version and it is well known that the new RN carrier has been specifically designed to cope with CTOL aircraft, ostensibly to allow exchange ops with the USN and Aeronavale. Clearly there seems to be some room for manoevre here that the F-35B lobby could well do without.

What appears to be unmentionable and unthinkable though is the possibility that there will be no new carriers and no new fighters in the RN at all, sadly the prospects of the RN settling into becoming an all helicopter force have become more likely with the removal of the Sea Harrier from service. The reforming of 800 and 801 Sqn's with Harrier GR.9's in the spring/summer of 2006 looks like a mere token gesture as they will all be RAF aircraft in reality.

I think that it is true that most of the prospective F-35 customer nations are having second thoughts about it, if only privately, due to the cost and complexity issues surrounding the aircraft. To be fair to the JSF team, this sould not really have come as a surprise as such issues are part and parcel of any modern combat aircraft. There is a large degree of irony therefore in Norways decision to consider the Typhoon as an alternative!

The strange thing about Norway is that they have already become industrial partners in the Typhoon without actually ordering it yet. I cannot imagine Norway buying BOTH types, nor can I imagine Eurofighter giving away workshares for nothing, and yet equally I cannot see a Norwegian pullout of the JSF going down well in the US. This is a situation that really intrigues me and I cannot tell which way it is going to go.

I think the Danish buy of Gripens is extremely significant here. Denmark signed up to the JSF programme in 2002. The Danes also have a very small defence budget by any standards and their participation in JSF was a surprise in the first place. No they have agreed to buy the Gripen but have said nothing about their JSF intentions. Does anybody see Denmark buying TWO new types of fighter in this decade? I don't.

The Danes it seems followed the rest of the 'F-16 club' by leaping into the JSF programme. Maybe after lurching from the F-104 (a bad buy all round) straight into the F-16 en masse 25 years ago made this decision seem logical?

Despite its being around for a a long time it seems that only now is the Gripen being recognized as the truly cost effective F-16 replacement it really is, as well as its suitability to small European defence budgets. The Danes may well turn out to be only the first European F-16 operator to go Gripen.

This may also have a little to do with the hassle that buying American seems to bring with it, not content with simply taking the money, the US also seems to want its customers to be beholden for the privelege of being allowed to spend all these millions on the US product, this is an attitude that has really grown since the 1980's and leaves a nasty taste among its global best friends of many decades standing.

This appears to be emphasised by a recent study into the fitment of the EJ 200 into the Gripen. Even though it was not followed up into the hardware stage (at least not yet) it does look like a serious attempt to remove any US control over any part of the Gripen that might affect future sales and operations.

Do I think JSF customers will desert the project en masse? No, not really, but the fact that real alternatives are being seriously looked at must raise concern in the US and they must realise that further 'will we, wont we' arsing about with the F-35 can only make the situation worse.

posted on Jan, 7 2006 @ 08:08 AM
Interesting you're posting this now. Just the other day I heard on the TV, that Australia may only be able to buy half of what was originally considered due to spiralling costs.
I wait with baited breath to see what the final cost per aircraft is.

posted on Jan, 7 2006 @ 11:03 AM
yes Australia is looking like it may only get 50 now, they would have been better off buying the F-22 with that number.

posted on Jan, 7 2006 @ 11:10 AM
But if they bought the F-22 it wouldn't even be 50, it would be more like 12-20 as the budget is fairly rigid, that is why they are talking of reduced numbers in the first place. Thats one of the reasons behind my original post, they may find that they can switch to the Gripen (for example) and actually afford more aircraft for the price rather than less.

posted on Jan, 7 2006 @ 12:00 PM
The US defence industry is notorious for exceeding it's planned budget for a weapon system. It should be factored into the cost, that there will be a budget overrun. Then again, I guess you wouldn't sucker as many countries.

posted on Jan, 7 2006 @ 12:28 PM
The 30-35 million US$ pricetag they started out with always was ridiculously underpriced for an aircraft with that prospected capabilities. But now that it has risen to 55-60 million $ (and probably beyond that until its fielded) the concept of the "cheap, low-lifecycle cost, multirole, massive-numbered F-16 successor" seriously has to be questioned by the export candidates - while at the same time knowing that your aircraft will most likely not be "as advertised", but with more or less restricted features vs. the US version.

Lets face it, the only real advantage the F-35 (apart form the STOVL version) HAS over the competition are its (yet to be seen) low-observability characteristics - a thing that the RADAR "community" is equally eager trying to counter. Add to that the fact that it might take 5+ more years to be full in production for export, and the prospects for the customers really might not be all roses. They could end up with just the aircraft they need - or they could get an upgraded F-16 son, technically in no way superiour to cheaper to acquire and maintain market rivals who also have the benefit of being not being hampered by US political control.

[edit on 7/1/2006 by Lonestar24]

posted on Jan, 8 2006 @ 09:55 AM
Exellent thread...
(I see that you have changed your avatar again... This is much nicer...

Back to the topic...

The F-16 is a great fighter, Denmark and Norway have in my opinion no reason to change them for better ones. Denmark has a small defense budget, and the F-35 is an expensive plane. Norway would have the money, but they don't need better planes due the fact that they are in NATO and Finland and Sweden are (geographilly) covering them from the biggest military threat Russia.

And to your question about the Gripen... It is much cheaper, and still a very good plane. Besides it has been around for a while, and they know that the plane actually can do what it promises. The F-35 is still so new. And I think that "potential buyers" want to wait, and see how well it performs in real life.

[edit on 8-1-2006 by Figher Master FIN]

posted on Jan, 8 2006 @ 10:02 AM
The thing to think about though FIN is that we are talking about replacing F-16A's here that were ordered in 1979, not the current version which is effectively a different aircraft. When discussing replacing F-16's I think it is easy to think in terms of the current model rather than this 25 years old variant.

(Happy that you like the avatar, I do too, though not sure about the photo)

posted on Jan, 8 2006 @ 10:08 AM
Hmm... Yes, but I wills till stick to my comment about choosing the Gripen, just because it has actually been prooven to be a good plane. That is someting that the F-25 has not. And the F-35 is a "super fighter" I don't believe that small countries like Denmark and Norway need these kinds of planes, just because they aren't in real need of them...

posted on Jan, 8 2006 @ 10:12 AM
Oh yes, absolutely. That was the gist of that part of my original post. I was just responding to the bit where you seemed to be saying that the F-16 doesn't need replacing. I agree with all the rest.

posted on Jan, 8 2006 @ 10:17 AM
Aah yes... I didn't know that they used the "older" model, just that they had F-16. It is strange, how big the difference can be between an A and an E...

[edit on 8-1-2006 by Figher Master FIN]

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